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Truancy hotline road sign in Savannah, Georgia, US

Truancy is any intentional, unjustified, unauthorized, or illegal absence from compulsory education. It is absence caused by students of their own free will, and usually does not refer to legitimate excused absences, such as ones related to medical conditions. Truancy is usually explicitly defined in the school's handbook of policies and procedures. Some children whose parents claim to homeschool have also been found truant in the United States.[1] Other terms for truancy include playing hooky (US English), skiving off (British English), and bunking. Attending school but not going to class is called skipping class.

In some schools, truancy may result in not being able to graduate or to receive credit for classes attended, until the time lost to truancy is made up through a combination of detention, fines, or summer school.

Truancy is a frequent subject of popular culture. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is about the title character's (played by Matthew Broderick) day of truancy in Chicago with his girlfriend and best friend. Truancy is also the title of a 2008 novel about a student uprising against a dictatorial educational system.

There are experiences that show that thanks to the incorporation of Successful Educational Actions (SEAs) in schools with high absenteeism they have managed to reduce truancy and thus contribute to the improvement of academic success. [2]

Slang expressions[edit]

There are a number of expressions in most languages which refer to truancy. In South Africa, the slang used is bunking, mulling, skipping or jippo. In Jamaica, it is called skulling. In Guyana skulking. In Antigua and Barbuda, it is called skudding. In New Zealand and Australia truancy is called wagging, "jigging", ditching, or skipping school. It is called bunking (off) or skiving or wagging in the United Kingdom, mitching, twagging, "skiving" or on the knock. In Wales, mitching or sagging. In Liverpool, bunking or cutting class, doggin, skiving, playing tickie or puggin. In Scotland, on the hop, on the bunk, mitching, beaking, skiving, doggin it or on the beak. In Ireland, mitching, on the hop, dossing, on the duck or skiving. In the United States and Canada expressions include hooky, playing hooky, ditching, dipping, jigging, sluffing, skipping, cutting class, or simply just cutting. In the city of St. John's, the act of truancy is known amongst youths as pipping off, and truant students are described as being on the pip. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is referred to as breaking biche. In Singapore and Malaysia, it is referred to as fly. In the state of Utah a sluff is a commonly used word referring to a truancy. In Pakistan and India it is referred to as bunking. In South Korea, it is called ddaeng-ddaeng-i (땡땡이 [땡땡이 치다]). In Japan, It is called zuruyasumi. In Indonesia, It is called "bolos" or "cabut".

Punishments imposed[edit]

Ralph Hedley: The Truant's Log, 1899


In Denmark, some welfare benefits[clarification needed] can be confiscated for a period if the child does not attend school. However, not all cities use this approach to keep the children in school.[3] Most cities[clarification needed] watch for families who have not returned their children to school after the summer vacation because some groups exiled their children to their ethnic home countries for behavior modification. In the city of Aarhus, 155 children had not turned up one week after the school started.[4] In April 2009, research among 4,000 students showed that more than every third student had been absent during the last 14 days.[5]


In Finland truant pupils usually get detention in comprehensive schools. The police are not involved in truancy control but the teachers of the school monitor the school area and sometimes the nearby areas during recess to avoid unauthorized absence. If the pupil is absent for a long period of time the parents may be fined.[6] The aim of fining is to try to force parents to put their children into school. The child will not be escorted to school, but can be taken away from parents if continued.


In Germany, the parents of a child absent from school without a legitimate excuse are notified by the school. If the parents refuse to send their child to school or are unable to control their child, local child services or social services officers may request the police to escort the child to school, and in extreme cases may petition a court to partially or completely remove child custody from the parents. Parents may also be fined in cases of refusal.[7]

England and Wales[edit]

In England and Wales, truancy is a criminal offence for parents if the child concerned is registered at school[8]. Truancy laws do not apply to children educated at home or otherwise under Section 7 of the Act. Since the passage of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, parents of persistent truants may be imprisoned for up to three months.[9][10] In 2002, the first parent was imprisoned under this provision.[11][12]

Since 1998, a police officer of or above the rank of superintendent may direct that for a specified time in a specified area a police officer may remove a child believed to be absent from a school without authority to that school or to another designated place. However this is not a power of arrest and it is not a power to detain, and does not make truancy a criminal offence.[13] There is a warning given the first time the parents allow the child to commit truancy, but if they allow it more than once, then the parents are given a fine starting from £50. Some charities have highlighted an increasing prevalence of truancy among impoverished girls during menstruation, especially among girls who do not have easy access to sanitary products.[14]

United States[edit]

In the United States, truancy regulations are generally enforced by school officials under the context of parental responsibility. New automated calling systems allow the automated notification of parents when a child is not marked present in the computer, and truancy records for many states are available for inspection online.[citation needed] In large schools where law enforcement officers are present, the fine for "playing hooky" can range from $250 to as much as $500. About 12,000 students were ticketed for truancy in 2008 in Los Angeles.[15] Many states[clarification needed] provide for the appointment of local truancy officers who have the authority to arrest habitually truant youths and bring them to their parents or to the school they are supposed to attend. Many states[clarification needed] also have the power to revoke a student's driver's license or permit. Where it exists, a school truancy officer is often a constable or sheriff, concurrently. The position of a full-time truancy officer is generally viewed[weasel words] as being a relic from the 19th century when mandatory school attendance was relatively new.[citation needed]

Children are required by law to attend school until they reach a certain age, which varies by state (typically 16-18 years), unless an absence is formally excused by a school official or the child has been expelled.

Children in private school or homeschooling are exempt from attending mandatory public schooling.[16]

Truant's Day[edit]

In Poland and the Faroe Islands, the first day of spring (March 21) is an unofficial occasion popular among children, who traditionally play truant on that day.[17] Similarly, students in the United States have Senior Skip Day. The date for skip day varies among different schools. In the Eastern United States, Senior Skip Day is often celebrated on the last Friday before Spring Break, or in some cases, the Monday after prom.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Home-school mom charged with allowing truancy". "The Southern". 25 April 2005.
  2. ^ "Reducing absenteeism and early school leaving. [Social Impact]. INCLUD-ED. Strategies for inclusion and social cohesion from education in Europe (2006-2011). European Union's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6/2006-2012)". SIOR, Social Impact Open Repository.
  3. ^ Det virker at inddrage børnechecken (It works confiscating the child benefit check), by Anette Sørensen, Denmarks Radio, October 25, 2008
  4. ^ 155 elever er ikke mødt op Archived 2009-01-07 at the Wayback Machine. (155 children have not started), by Majken Klintø,, August 26, 2008
  5. ^ Børn pjækker mere fra skole, DR News, April 30, 2009
  6. ^ "Äidille sakkoja lasten oppivelvollisuuden laiminlyömisestä - - Kotimaa" (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 23 September 2009. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  7. ^ OLG Hamm, Beschluss vom 21. Dezember 2012, Az.: II-2 UF 181/11
  8. ^ S.7 Education act 1996
  9. ^ Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, §72
  10. ^ "Truancy timeline: 1997-2009". BBC News. 11 February 2009.
  11. ^ "Jailing parents: What happened next?". BBC News. 12 February 2009.
  12. ^ "Truancy mother sent to jail again". BBC Newsdate. 23 March 2004.
  13. ^ "Electronic Records Online". Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Ehrenreich, Barbara (9 August 2009). "OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR; Is It Now a Crime to Be Poor?". The New York Times. p. 9. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Public Holidays in Poland". Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  18. ^ Dyer, Elisabeth (14 April 2006). "Life's a beach for many students on senior skip day". St. Petersburg times. Retrieved 23 November 2010.